To what extent was Mercantilism the most important factor in the expansion of the British Empire?
* Can be argued strongly that Mercantilism was the most important factor in the expansion of the British empire
* Although other factors such as trading companies and naval dominance and subsequent victory in conflict contributed to the consolidation and acceleration of empire
* Mercantilism and mercantilist policies and legislature were the ‘launchpad’ that allowed these factors to take place and flourish, thus mercantilism was indeed the most important factor in the expansion of the British Empire, but was not the sole reason for expansion
Para 1: Mercantilism
* Mercantilist policies were the driving force behind the expansion of empire as they protected British trade and shipping (navigation acts 1696, molasses act 1733), taxed goods coming through British ports and favoured trade to British colonies. Allowed the empire to flourish and develop as they placed emphasis on trade and growth as the key to national strength.
* Bank of England 1694 = entrepreneurialism, encouraged stockholders to invest in the empire and in trade which created more funds for further exploration and expansion
* Allowed the development of industry and ports to process materials generated by trade such as sugar. Mercantilist legislation passed to expand ports such as Liverpool and Glasgow ensured more exports and imports could be carried out due to the new size and sophistication of the ports = extends trade, revenue and wealth, more funds for war and overseas domination
Para 2: Trading companies also played a part in the expansion of empire but could not have flourished without mercantilism.
* Trading companies created links with governments abroad - EIC relationships with the Moguls in India lead to them being granted a firmum allowing them to establish factors and factories e.g. Fort William (vital footholds abroad, strengthened British...